OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. â€“ U.S. Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, Air Force Global Strike Command commander, met with U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command commander, other senior USSTRATCOM leaders and subject matter experts to discuss a variety of mission-related issues during his visit to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, Aug. 17-18.
Rand, who became AFGSC’s senior officer in July, leads the command that is responsible for organizing, training and equipping all U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile and bomber forces to provide combat-ready assets in support of USSTRATCOM’s strategic deterrence and global strike responsibilities. Because his command directly supports multiple strategic mission areas, Rand said he wanted to spend time with Haney to learn more about USSTRATCOM and the role AFGSC plays in the big picture.
While here, Rand, AFGSC’s first four-star commander, said he is confident in the airmen around him and their ability to effectively accomplish the mission.
“I have a lot to learn, but I’m not worried because I’m surrounded by people who really know the business and I’m a fast learner,” said Rand. “I didn’t grow up in the bomber and ICBM business, but I do have experience in the nuclear business. As a young captain, I used to sit nuclear alert in the dual capable aircraft mission we do in Europe.”
He also said he believes his 36 years of experience at several commands, as well as a “fresh perspective, without any pre-conceived notions of how things should be,” can be healthy.
When discussing the Air Force’s decision to elevate AFGSC to a four-star command, the general was quick to praise the previous AFGSC commanders. He emphasized that Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski and current USSTRATCOM deputy commander Lt. Gen. Stephen W. Wilson “all did a great job!” Rand said “the nuclear business is job one for the Air Force” and he believes the change was about providing the global strike and deterrence missions with the highest level of leadership oversight, similar to the other core operational missions.
“It sends a powerful message to our airmen, allies and potential adversaries,” he said. “It speaks to the commitment and promise to our nation to ensure a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent and global strike capability with the right level of leadership emphasis.”
Haney also acknowledged the significance of a four-star AFGSC commander and was impressed during his initial meeting with Rand.
"By elevating Air Force Global Strike to a four-star command, the Air Force has shown how critical the nuclear enterprise is in today's dynamic and complex global environment," Haney said. "General Rand is a proven leader, and from the time I was able to spend with him during his visit to my headquarters yesterday, I am confident the Air Force chose the right person to continue the great strides being made in the nuclear enterprise."
Rand said that his organization’s priorities are directly tied to and supportive of USSTRATCOM, and his main focus will be on the global strike mission, the airmen who perform the mission and the families who support the airmen.
“They must be rooted in a solid foundation, which is our core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do,” he said. “We will use our rich heritage â€“ reflecting on what 8th Air Force and 20th Air Force have accomplished in the past 70 plus years; looking at the culture that SAC (Strategic Air Command) instilled â€“ as a tool to help inspire us to live by our core values.”
Although he has only been AFGSC commander a short time, Rand said he is already very familiar with and proud of the work being conducted by his airmen around the globe.
“This year alone, AFGSC airmen have conducted missions over the Arctic; they’ve supported exercises in Europe and the Middle East; [and] they’ve flown throughout the Pacific theater,” he said. “â€¦and don’t forget about the 1,000-plus airmen pulling alert in America’s missile fields 24/7, every day. I am very appreciative for the opportunity to work with the airmen who are willing to conduct the nation’s toughest business. They are the foundation for America’s national security.”
Rand also provided his thoughts on the Nuclear Enterprise Review (NER), training exercises and operations with international partners and modernization for the deterrence enterprise:
On the Nuclear Enterprise Review and Force Improvement Programs
“What has happened since the NER is the Secretary of the Air Force, the Chief of Staff [of the Air Force] and Lt. Gen. Wilson (former AFGSC commander), have implemented a lot of the Force Improvement Program plans that came out of the review. I think we are in a far better place today than we were 18 months agoâ€¦ The key, though, is that we keep that momentum going and we don’t rest on our laurels. There’s still work to do.”
On long-range bomber missions and training exercises with international partners and allies
“This is absolutely an opportunity to [carry out] the “Assure and Deter” piece that is fundamental to the global strike mission, and certainly to Adm. Haney and USSTRATCOM’s mission. On one hand, it gives assurance to our allies and partnersâ€¦ it shows our involvement and our dedication. On the other hand, it sends a message to our adversaries without overtly looking for conflictâ€¦ These missions are also wonderful training opportunities for our aircrews. It keeps our readiness high. That’s a big bonus and we don’t want to take that for granted.”
On nuclear modernization
“I think it’s absolutely critical that we continue to modernize where necessary. We’ve got some work to doâ€¦ Like anything, you have to continue to invest and recapitalize and modernize. It’s a big priority, but we’ve got to do it with fiscal responsibility. It’s not a blank check so we have to articulate what we need, why we need it and what will the consequences be if we don’t get it. Our command will focus on making sure our airmen have the tools, equipment and training they need to ensure the nuclear enterprise is healthy for the next generation.”
Following his visit to USSTRATCOM headquarters, Rand and Haney traveled to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, where they observed the test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM. The launch was conducted as part of the system's operational test and evaluation program, which provides valuable data to USSTRATCOM, AFGSC and evaluators to validate the reliability of the ICBM fleet.
Members from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, partnering with the men and women from the 576th Flight Test Squadron and the 30th Space Wing, both at Vandenberg AFB, completed the operational test launch of the ICBM. This particular launch was conducted 45 years to the day from when the 91st Missile Wing put the U.S. Air Force’s first Minuteman III ICBMs on alert, a testament to the longevity and persistence of the mission. It also marks 50 years to the day since the first unarmed Minuteman II ICBM operational test launch was conducted at Vandenberg AFB.
“These tests provide invaluable opportunities to assess our joint operational readiness across USSTRATCOM’s mission areas,” said Haney. “They afford opportunities to practice and hone integrated approaches to 21st Century deterrence. This launch, along with a continued focus and investment in our strategic capabilities, will allow USSTRATCOM to deter, dissuade, and defeat current and future threats to the U.S. and our allies.”